Hiring tech-skilled workers: I asked for Ottawa’s help

TORONTO – A group representing 150 of Canada’s fastest growing technology companies wants the federal government to pilot a new visa program to get the highly skilled workers they need in the country without a job offer.

The visa proposed Thursday by the Canadian Council of Innovators (CCI) targets in-demand professions, such as software developers and data science experts. It will allow beneficiaries to work, even change jobs or employers and help them extend their stay and obtain permanent residence, without having to switch to another visa category.

The proposal is among 13 recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit included in a new report aimed at addressing the shortage of skilled tech workers and helping startups compete with giants and multinationals in Silicon Valley.

“There are more than 200,000 tech job openings in Canada,” said Benjamin Bergen, Chairman.

“At the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, the borders practically collapsed,” he explained, adding that “the shortage of skilled workers has been exacerbated by the fact that foreign companies can now hire people. In Canada to work remotely, which adds to the pressure.”

For example, Meta, the owner of Facebook, announced on Tuesday that it will hire 2,500 Canadians over the next five years, many of whom will work remotely.

Thus, the American giant is following in the footsteps of Microsoft, DoorDash, Amazon, Google, Wayfair, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and Netflix which announced Canadian hiring plans during the pandemic. However, young companies here are wondering how these web giants will compete and the salaries of these companies.

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For CCI, the proposed changes to visa programs will create pathways to permanent residence and thus help Canadian companies meet the challenges of hiring a skilled workforce.

Furthermore, the council believes that tax rules need clarification regarding the length of stay of Canadians working remotely and overseas and the length of stay of aliens who settle in Canada for part of the year.

Another recommendation targets talent retention by offering a 12-month grace period for student loan repayments to recent graduates working for Canadian companies and benefits to employers who help pay off student debt for their employees.

Finally, the Canadian Council of Creators wants the next generation of talent to be a priority. He called on the government to consider providing funding to Canadian companies to prepare workforce qualification or retraining programs, as well as incentives to encourage post-secondary institutions to offer more cooperative training.

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